Target, big-box store, building
More than just a shopping mecca. Mike Mozart via Flickr

There are times when I look around at the crap people are buying and selling and think, I have lived too long.

I had this experience the other day at Target when I learned I had 10 minutes to kill before my prescription would be ready. Usually I go into big-box stores with blinders on. I parachute in on a surgical strike to secure the release of a bag of hot dog rolls or some deer soap and then parachute out. Otherwise, I might look around at all the junk, soak up the LED radiation, see the dead-eyed shoppers, and lose the will to live.

Lacking a bag to put over my head, I went for a stroll. There was a display of massively padded bras. (Can anyone explain why it is it all but impossible for a woman to buy a bra that does not make her breasts look like they’re about to explode? Who is driving this weird distortion—women, men, aliens? Men wore padded codpieces until the 16th century, so it’s not like we’re immune, but most of us gave them up 400 years ago.) This Is Not a Bra is their best-selling model. Where they lose me is how that wonderful achievement means it’s no longer a bra. If it’s not a bra, what, exactly, is it?

Next I wandered into the fitness section. This is where they sell products to people who want the right exercise gear but have no intention of breaking a sweat. Which is exactly what we, my fellow Americans, increasingly do in an increasing number of areas in our increasingly empty lives. We buy six-burner gas ranges that we never cook on. We binge-watch cooking shows and imagine ourselves wizards in the kitchen but seldom actually cook. We watch more and more hunting and fishing shows, buy more and more gear, but do less and less actual hunting and fishing. I’m not immune to this. On days when I don’t make it to the gym, I punch up this 1 minute, 52 second Youtube video from Burst Athletics. And then I have a big glass of chocolate milk, which is an excellent recovery beverage.

I then came across a $27.69 hook-shaped piece of plastic known as the Gaia Restore Pinpoint Back Massager. Basically, it’s a gift from God. There was a picture of a well-toned woman thoughtfully targeting a muscle behind her right shoulder with it, and you could tell it was working. It targets those hard-to-reach muscles and trigger points. Okay, it’s 48 cents’ worth of molded plastic selling for 50 times that much that will end up in your local landfill in three months. It’s a backscratcher. And that’ll be $28 please. (Incidentally, if you do have pressure points or sore muscles, my spine doctor told me to take a lacrosse ball, place it between my back and any wall, and roll it around until it finds the sore spot. Then apply pressure. It hurts, and then it feels better. You can find lacrosse balls in streams below almost any playground.)

Right next to the back massager, for just $24.99, were Champion Agility Dots. These are six rubber circles you put on the floor and jump around on. Doing so increases your speed, balance, and quickness. The Agility Dots come with an exercise guide and an easy-carry bag. On the other hand, if you really want to jump around, couldn’t you just, you know, do that? Do the dots really enhance the experience? In my own kitchen, for example, I could just aim for different stains on the floor. If you’re on a clean tiled floor, like at a gym, you could just aim for specific tiles. Or cut out circular pieces of, say, nonslip carpet padding. Then again, you’d have to forego the carrying case and put them in a paper bag. Never mind. That would look stupid.

All of these products have something in common. All promise some marvelous shortcut or transformation. Yes, I’m wearing a bra, but it’s not really a bra. With this amazing hook, I can finally release all the evil tension I’ve been storing in my back for years. If I just get these colorful agility dots, the motivation to get in shape that I’ve been looking for will appear, yank my butt off the couch, and make me quicker and more balanced in 15 minutes. Ah, but we love our shortcuts, however absurd they seem once we get them home.

Hey, I just got a great idea for a new product. A men’s padded codpiece. Which I’ll market as This Is Not a Codpiece.